HONOLULU (KHON2) — Hawaii Gov. David Ige announced on Thursday, June 24, restaurants will be able to increase capacity to 75% on Thursday, July 8.
According to the Hawaii Restaurant Association, however, that does not help the industry at all.
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“They had good intentions with the 75%, but unless we address the six-feet social distancing, it really means nothing to us,” said Hawaii Restaurant Association chairman Gregory Maples.
Restaurants across Oahu have been extremely busy since tourism picked up quickly over the summer, but with fewer tables allowed due to the six-foot distancing, it has led to long wait times and events being sold out.
“Even the Polynesian Cultural Center is sold out through parts of August,” added Maples, who is also the Vice President of Food Services at PCC. “And in order for us to give that great experience to the guests that are coming to Hawaii, we need to have capacity restraints, you know, taken away.”
Maples said he was hoping outdoor distancing would have been dropped to three feet to allow more people to eat outside and help increase capacity for some businesses.
Mayor Rick Blangiardi said he was hoping the restrictions would have eased sooner.
“At some point the math doesn’t work so realistically speaking, I’ve been to a number of restaurants where I don’t think the seating has been six-feet, if we go to 75 percent capacity, I think what we’re asking for is they will space their tables accordingly to the best of their ability,” he said.
Gov. Ige said Hawaii has been following CDC guidance.
“I do think the specific CDC guidance is [the restaurants] should provide maximum space between the tables and we definitely need to reconcile if there is a difference about spacing in regards to 75 percent capacity,” Ige said.
With the real estate market still hot, the Honolulu Board of Realtors said increasing indoor gatherings to 25 will help potential buyers look for more homes.
“When you have to stand in line at every open house, you might only be able to get to go to three houses in a day when you factor in half an hour outside, 10 minutes waiting in line inside, and then travel to the next one. So this allows our buyers to be able to see more things than they would have, you know, even just a few weeks ago, they can be more efficient,” said Honolulu Board of Realtors president Shannon Heaven.
Gov. Ige said masks are still required indoors.
Although gathering sizes are increasing, health officials are still concerned about variants spreading among unvaccinated groups and encourage everyone to get vaccinated.
Maples hopes the six-foot distancing guidance is dropped soon so restaurants that suffered major losses during the pandemic have the chance to rebound while tourism is at its peak.
“We need this summer to be as close to full capacity as possible because once the middle of August hits, the whole thing goes down, and we’re back into you know make do with what you have until around Thanksgiving, and then it heats back up again. So we needed this little disappointing that we didn’t get more,” Maples added.